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Scrooge U: Part XIV — How Alan Young became a lucky McDuck

Jim Hill continues his series on the many movie & television adaptations of Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale. This time around, Jim talks about Disney’s 1983 animated featurette, “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”

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You want to hear something ironic? It was an act of generosity that — in a roundabout way — led to Alan Young being cast as the world’s most miserly duck.



Copyright 2004 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


I’m serious, folks. Back in the 1960s, this “Mr. Ed” star helped a young man who was just getting started in the entertainment industry. And that man’s name was Gary Krisel. 


Now Krisel would eventually go on to become head of Disney’s worldwide records & music publishing businesses. And — before Gary left the Walt Disney Company in 1995 — he would eventually rise to the position of president of television animation.


Mind you, by the mid-1970s, Krisel wasn’t yet one of the Mouse House’s high muckety-mucks. He was just an exec at Walt Disney Records who still felt very grateful toward Mr. Young for helping Gary get his start in the biz. Which is why Krisel asked Young to come by his office one afternoon.


Gary then showed Alan some artwork of several Disney favorites dressed as Dickens characters. Krisel explained that these illustrations had been created for an earlier Walt Disney Records project that hadn’t fared all that well. Which Gary was now looking to revive.


Knowing that Young was a writer, Gary asked Alan if he’d be interested in riding herd on this revival. Which would involve creating a brand-new recording that would tell the story of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Only with Scrooge McDuck & a host of other Disney characters playing all the parts in this holiday tale.


Now, what Krisel didn’t know was that — back in his youth — Young had actually been a member of a Dickens society. So Alan was intimately familiar with this author’s writings. More to the point, Young had spent much of his youth in Edinburgh, Scotland. Which meant that Alan could summon up an authentic sounding Scottish burr at the drop of a tam.


In short, Young was the perfect guy to assign the “Dickens-Christmas-Carol-as-performed-by-that-popular-repertory-company,-the-Walt-Disney-Players” project to. Working with veteran sitcom writer Alan Dinehart, Alan crafted a script for this LP that served the story well in addition to providing a great showcase for the Disney characters.


And — when it came to the final product — Young took a very hands-on approach. He not only co-produced this recording, Alan even went on to voice three of the characters that were featured on this “Dickens’ Christmas Carol” storyteller album: Scrooge McDuck, Mickey Mouse and Merlin from Disney’s “Sword in the Stone” (Who — in this version of the classic holiday tale — played the Ghost of Christmas Past).


Released in 1975, this “Dickens’ Christmas Carol” storyteller album was a huge success. Over the next few years, tens of thousands of copies of this LP would sell every holiday season. And — with each Christmas that passed — this new version of this holiday classic would acquire more & more fans.



Copyright 1975 Walt Disney Records


And — along the way — one of the people who eventually became a fan of this “Dickens’ Christmas Carol” storyteller album was WDFA veteran Burny Mattinson.



Copyright 2004 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Now Burny was always on the look for stories that could then be used as the basis for new animated productions at the studio. And here was a recording that had actually been produced in-house that gave the classic Disney characters great roles to play. To Mattinson’s way of thinking, WDFA producing a movie version of this “Dickens’ Christmas Carol” storyteller LP was a no-brainer.


So — once Ron Miller, the then-head of Walt Disney Productions, signed off on the project — Burny began assembling a team that would help him change this LP into an animated featurette. Recruiting some of WDFA’s top young talents to come work on what was now known as “Mickey’s Christmas Carol.”



Copyright 2004 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Among the then-young turks who were quick to climb on board this project was master animator Glen Keane (left), who handled Willie the Giant & Goofy in this picture, and David Block (right). Block’s name may not be as familar as Keane’s is to all you feature animation fans out there. Which is perfectly understandable. Given that David has been concentrating his efforts on the television animation side of things at Disney for over 20 years now. But — trust me, folks — if you’ve ever watched an episode of “The Gummi Bears,” “DuckTales” or “Kim Possible,” you’ve been enjoying David Block’s work.


Anyway … Getting back to “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” again … David Block handled Scrooge McDuck on this project, while Mark Henn worked on Mickey Mouse. Of course, given that it had been nearly 30 years since Mickey last appeared on the big screen (In the 1953 animated short, “The Simple Things“), some research was in order. Which is why Henn then spent hours digging around in the studio’s morgue, looking for examples of how other artists had handled the Mouse.


I’ve included the two photos below not just because the one on the left is a nice shot of Mark in the middle of doing some research for this film …



Copyright 2004 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


… But also because it shows how times have changed at the Walt Disney Company. The shot on the left is Disney’s morgue circa 1983. When animation drawings from as far back as “Plane Crazy” were stored in loose manila folders that were then stacked on wooden racks in the studio’s dark & damp basement.


The photo of the right shows Disney’s ARL (I.E. Animation Research Library). Where these same drawings are now carefully catalogued under climate controlled conditions. Where the archivists who work there all wear white gloves to insure that they won’t ever damage this highly valuable material.


Interesting to see how things can change in 25 years, isn’t it?


Anywho … Back to “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” again … One of the other reasons that Mark Henn was digging through files in the morgue was to check out earlier featurettes that had put Mickey in a starring role. Given that “Mickey and the Beanstalk” had only been 29 minutes long, it was felt that this portion of “Fun and Fancy Free” might provide a good template for “Mickey’s Christmas Carol.” Give this next generation of Disney animators some sense of how best to structure a story that was less than feature-length.



Copyright 2004 Disney Enterprises,Inc.


Ironically enough, it was while “Mickey and the Beanstalk” was in production back in 1946 that Walt finally decided that he could no longer handle recording all of Mickey’s dialogue. Which is why — starting with that featurette — Disney turned most of his Mouse-voicing responsibilties over to longtime studio soundman, Jimmy MacDonald.


35 years later, as production on “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” was just getting underway, Jimmy felt that it was once again time to pass that mouse-shaped baton. Which is why MacDonald suggested that his assistant, Wayne Allwine, take over as the Mouse’s official spokesperson. And Wayne has been speaking for Mickey ever since.



Copyright 2004 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Speaking of voices … You want to hear something bizarre? Alan Young almost didn’t get the chance to provide Scrooge McDuck’s voice in “Mickey’s Christmas Carol.” Why For? Because — as production was gearing up on this animated featurette — people at the studio were reportedly reluctant to give this old sitcom star a call. They supposedly thought that Young wouldn’t want this job.


Mind you, Alan only finds out that Disney is getting ready to produce an animated version of his “Dickens’ Christmas Carol” storyteller LP when a friend asks for Young’s help in preparing for an upcoming audition. You see, this actor pal of Alan’s knew that Young could do a killer Scottish accent. And this performer was hoping that Alan could give him a few tips about how to do a good Scottish accent before he went in for this audition at Disney.


So this friend drops by Young’s house with the pages that he’s been given for this upcoming Disney audition. And as Alan reviews this material, he realizes that these pages are an excerpt of the script that he & Alan Dinehart had written for that “Dickens’ Christmas Carol” storyteller LP some eight years earlier.


So Young then calls an executive over at Disney Studios and asks if they’re now making a movie version of that recording that he wrote & co-produced. This suit says “Yes.” So Alan then says “Well, can I please come in and audition for the role of Scrooge?” And the exec says “Sure.”


So Young goes over to the Burbank lot and absolutely nails his audition for Scrooge McDuck. Which isn’t all that surprising. Given the terrific job that he’d done with this very same character some eight years earlier. So Alan is then offered the part … And he’s been voicing Scrooge McDuck ever since.


As to why Alan wasn’t originally asked to audition for this role in “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” … The stories that I’ve heard suggest some folks at WDFA thought that Young might consider it beneath him to be asked to voice a cartoon character. Particularly on a project that he’d originally helped create. So — rather than possibly offend Alan — they opted not to call him in.


When he finally heard Disney’s lame excuse for not getting in touch with him about the Scrooge McDuck auditions, Young allegedly replied: “Hey, I worked in television for five years with a talking horse. At this point in my career, nothing’s beneath me.”



Copyright 2004 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


As for the movie itself, “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” isn’t actually an adaptation of Dickens’ classic tale. It’s more of a burlesque of this holiday favorite. With Scrooge McDuck basically wisequacking his way through the first half of the film.



Copyright 2004 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Fans of this featurette might be intrigued to learn that the roles of Ghost of Christmas Present & Christmas Future were played by different Disney characters on the “Dickens’ Christmas Carol” storyteller LP. As I mentioned earlier, it was Merlin the Magician — rather than Jiminy Cricket — who showed Ebenezer the errors of his past on that recording. And as for the Ghost of Christmas Future … Would you believe the Witch / Old Peddler Woman from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” rather than Black Pete?



Copyright 2004 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Of course, one of the main reasons that animation fans love this film is the large number of classic Disney characters who make quick cameo appearances in “Mickey’s Christmas Carol.” Hell, this animated featurette sometimes seems like a “Mr. Toad” reunion special. Given that Toad turns up in the role of Fezziwig, while McBadger can briefly be seen dancing at the holiday party. Meanwhile Ratty & Mole make an appearance as the two gentlemen who try & solicit a charitable contribution from Scrooge, …



Copyright 2004 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


… Cyril turns up as nephew Fred (Who’s played by Donald Duck)’s horse while the weasels from that film play the gravediggers who are getting ready to bury Ebenezer.



Copyright 2004 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Speaking of the graveyard sequence … It’s at this exact moment in “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” that this WDFA featurette goes from being just a burlesque of Dickens’ classic story to becoming a movie that genuinely touches you. And it’s all on the back of Mark Henn’s masterful animation of Mickey tenderly placing that crutch on Tiny Tim’s grave. Not a single word is spoken. But as Mickey starts to tear up … Your heart automatically goes out to this character.



Copyright 2004 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


And — from that point forward — you’re hooked. You’re now emotionally invested in this picture. Which is why you can’t help but smile when the now-reformed Scrooge arrives at the Crachit household with a bagload of toys & holiday treats.



Copyright 2004 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


So alright. So “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” may not be the most faithful adaptation of Dickens’ beloved tale. It may not even be the best animated version of this holiday favorite (Sorry, Disneyana fans. But I still think that Mr. Magoo has Mickey beat. That cartoon “Christmas Carol” does a far better job of telling Dickens’ story. More to the point, that holiday special never substitutes genuine emotion for quick laughs). But — that said — there’s still a lot to like about this 1983 featurette.


If anything, Alan Young’s story about he came to land his Scrooge McDuck gig should provide a very valuable lesson. Especially to those of you who work in the entertainment industry.


And that lesson is … Never hesitate to give anyone who’s just getting started a leg up. For today’s go-fer could be tomorrow’s CEO. Someone who could then possibly give you a leg up in your career.


And speaking of tomorrow … Tomorrow, we take a look at how Academy-Award winner George C. Scott plays Ebenezer Scrooge. He’s one manly miser.


Your thoughts?

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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Jens Dahlmann of LongHorn Steakhouse has lots of great tips when it comes to grilling

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Sure, for some folks, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks. But for the 75% of all Americans who own a grill or a smoker, the Fourth is our Nation’s No. 1 holiday when it comes to grilling. Which is why 3 out of 4 of those folks will spend some time outside today working over a fire.

But here’s the thing: Though 14 million Americans can cook a steak with confidence because they actually grill something every week, the rest of us – because we use our grill or smoker so infrequently … Well, let’s just say that we have no chops when it comes to dealing with chops (pork, veal or otherwise).

So what’s a backyard chef supposed to in a situation like this when there’s so much at steak … er … stake? Turn to someone who really knows their way around a grill for advice. People like Jens Dahlmann, the Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef for Darden Restaurant’s LongHorn Steakhouse brand.

Given that Jens’ father & grandfather were chefs, this is a guy who literally grew up in a kitchen. In his teens & twenties, Dahlmann worked in hotels & restaurants all over Switzerland & Germany. Once he was classically trained in the culinary arts, Jens then  jumped ship. Well, started working on cruise ships, I mean.

Anyway … While working on Cunard’s Sea Goddess, Dahlmann met Sirio Maccioni, the founder of Le Cirque 2000. Sirio was so impressed with Jens’ skills in the kitchen that he offered him the opportunity to become sous-chef at this New York landmark. After four years of working in Manhattan, Dahlmann then headed south to become executive chef at Palm Beach’s prestigious Café L’Europe.

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

And once Jens began wowing foodies in Florida, it wasn’t all that long ’til the Mouse came a-calling. Mickey wanted Dahlmann to shake things up in the kitchen over at WDW’s Flying Fish Café. And he did such a good job with that Disney’s Boardwalk eatery the next thing Jens knew, he was then being asked to work his magic with the menu at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill.

From there, Dahlmann had a relatively meteoric rise at the Mouse House. Once he became Epcot’s Food & Beverage general manager, it was only a matter of time before he wound up as the executive chef in charge of this theme park’s annual International Food & Wine Festival. Which – under Jens’ guidance – experienced some truly explosive growth.

“When I took on Food & Wine, that festival was only 35 days long and had gross revenues of just $5.5 million. When I left Disney in 2016, Food & Wine was now over 50 days long and that festival had gross revenues of $22 million,” Dahlmann admitted during a recent sit-down. “I honestly loved those 13 years I spent at Disney. When I was working there, I learned so much because I was really cooking for America.”

And it was exactly that sort of experience & expertise that Darden wanted to tap into when they lured Jens away from Mickey last year to become LongHorn Steakhouse’s new Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef. But today … Well, Dahlmann is offering tips to those of us who are thinking about cooking steak tips for the Fourth.

Photo by Jim Hill

“When you’re planning on grilling this holiday, if you’re looking for a successful result, the obvious place to start is with the quality of the meat you plan on cooking for your friends & family. If you want the best results here, don’t be cheap when you go shopping. Spend the money necessary for a fresh filet or a New York strip. Better yet a Ribeye, a nice thick one with good marbling. Because when you look at the marbling on a steak, that’s where all the flavor happens,” Jens explained. “That said, you always have to remember that — the higher you go with the quality of your meat — the less time you’re going to want that piece of meat to spend on the grill.”

And speaking of cooking … Before you even get started here, Jens suggests that you first take the time to check over all of your grilling equipment. Making sure that the grill itself is first scraped clean & then properly oiled before you then turn up the heat.

“If you’re working with a dirty grill, when you go to turn your meat, it may wind up sticking to the grill. Or maybe those spices that you’ve just so carefully coated your steak with will wind up sticking to the grill, rather than your meat,” Dahlmann continued. “Which is why it’s always worth it to spend a few minutes prior to firing up your grill properly cleaning & oiling it.”

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of heat … Again, before you officially get started grilling here, Jens says that it’s crucial to check your temperature gauges. Make sure that your char grill is set at 550 (so that it can then properly handle the thicker cuts of meat) and your flattop is set at 425 (so it can properly sear thinner pieces of meat).

Okay. Once you’ve bought the right cuts of quality meat, properly cleaned & oiled your grill, and then made sure that everything’s set at the right temperature (“If you can only stand to hold your hand directly over the grill for two or three seconds, that’s the right amount of heat,” Dahlmann said), it’s now time to season your steaks.

“Don’t be afraid to be bold here. You can’t be shy when it comes to seasoning your meat. You want to give it a nice coating. Largely because — if you’re using a char grill — a lot of that seasoning is just going to fall off anyway,” Jens stated. “It’s up to you to decide what sort of seasoning you want to use here. Even just some salt & pepper will enhance a steak’s flavor.”

Then – according to Dahlmann – comes the really tough part. Which is placing your meat on the grill and then fighting the urge to flip it too early or too often.

“The biggest mistake that a lot of amateur cooks make is that they flip the steak too many times. The real key to a well-cooked piece of meat is just let it be, “Jens insisted. “Of course, if you’re serving different cuts of meat at your Fourth of July feast, you always want to put your biggest thickest steak on the grill first. If you’re also cooking a New York Strip, you want to put that one on a few minutes later. But after that, just let the grill do its job and flip your meat a total of three or four times, once every three minutes or so.”

Of course, the last thing you want to do is overcook a quality piece of meat. Which is why Dahlmann suggests that – when it comes to grilling steaks – if you’re going to err, err on the side of undercooking.

“You can always put a piece of meat back on the grill if it’s slightly undercooked. When you over-cook something, all you can do then is start over with a brand-new piece of meat,” Jens said. “Just be sure that you’re using the correct cut of meat for the cooking result you’re aiming for. If someone wants a rare or medium rare steak, you should go with a thicker cut of steak. If one of your guests wants their steak cooked medium or well, it’s best to start with a thinner cut of meat.”

Photo by Jim Hill

As you can see, the folks at Longhorn take grilling steaks seriously. How seriously? Just last week at Darden Corporate Headquarters in Orlando, seven of these brand’s top grill masters (who – after weeks of regional competitions – had been culled from the 491 restaurants that make up this chain) competed for a $10,000 prize in the Company’s second annual Steak Master Series. And Dahlmann was one of the people who stood in Darden’s test kitchens, watching like a hawk as each of the contestants struggled to prepare six different dishes in just 20 minutes according to Longhorn Steakhouse’s exacting standards.

“I love that Darden does this. Recognizing the best of the best who work this restaurant,” Jens concluded. “We have a lot of people here who are incredibly knowledgeable & passionate when it comes to grilling.”

Speaking of which … If today’s story doesn’t include the exact piece of info that you need to properly grill that T-bone, just whip out your iPhone & text GRILL to 55702. Or – better yet – visit  ExpertGriller.com prior to firing up your grill or smoker later today. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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Brattleboro’s Strolling of the Heifers is a sincere if somewhat surreal way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont

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Some people travel halfway ‘around the planet so that they can then experience the excitement of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. If you’re more of a Slow Living enthusiast (as I am), then perhaps you should amble to Brattleboro, VT. Where – over the first weekend in June – you can then join a herd of cow enthusiasts at the annual Strolling of the Heifers.

Now in its 16th year, this three-day long event typically gets underway on Friday night in June with a combination block party / gallery walk. But then – come Saturday morning – Main Street in Brattleboro is lined with thousands of bovine fans.

Photo by Jim Hill

They’ve staked out primo viewing spots and set up camp chairs hours ahead of time. Just so these folks can then have a front row seat as this year’s crop of calves (which all come from local farms & 4-H clubs) are paraded through the streets.

Photo by Jim Hill

Viewed from curbside, Strolling of the Heifers is kind of this weird melding of a sincere small town celebration and Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade. Meaning that – for every entry that actually acknowledged this year’s theme (i.e. “Dance to the Moosic”) — …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something completely random, like this parade’s synchronized shopping cart unit.

Photo by Jim Hill

And for every piece of authentic Americana (EX: That collection of antique John Deere tractors that came chugging through the city) …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something silly. Like – say – a woman dressed as a Holstein pushing a baby stroller through the streets. And riding in that stroller was a pig dressed in a tutu.

Photo by Jim Hill

And given that this event was being staged in the Green Mountain State & all … Well, does it really surprise you to learn that — among the groups that marched in this year’s Strolling of the Heifers – was a group of eco-friendly folks who, with their  chants of “We’re Number One !,” tried to persuade people along the parade route not to flush the toilet after they pee. Because – as it turns out – urine can be turned into fertilizer.

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of fertilizer … At the tail end of the parade, there was a group of dedicated volunteers who were dealing with what came out of the tail end of all those cows.

Photo by Jim Hill

This year’s Strolling of the Heifers concluded at the Brattleboro town common. Where event attendees could then get a closer look at some of the featured units in this year’s parade…

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

But as for the 90+ calves who took part in the 2017 edition of Strolling of the Heifers, once they reached the town common, it was now time for a nosh or a nap.

Photo by Jim Hill

Elsewhere on the common, keeping with this year’s “Dance to the Moosic” theme, various musical groups performed in & around the gazebo throughout the afternoon.

Photo by Jim Hill

While just across the way – keeping with Brattleboro’s tradition of showcasing the various artisans who live & work in the local community – some pretty funky pieces were on display at the Slow Living Exposition.

Photo by Jim Hill

All in all, attending Strolling of the Heifers is a somewhat surreal but still very pleasant way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont. And that’s no bull.

Photo by Jim Hill

Well, that could be a bull. To be honest, what with the wig & all, it’s kind of hard to tell. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Sunday, June 4, 2017

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Looking to make an authentic Irish meal for Saint Patrick’s Day? If so, then chef Kevin Dundon says not to cook corned beef & cabbage

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Let’s at least start on a positive note: Celebrated chef, author & TV personality Kevin Dundon – the man that Tourism Ireland has repeatedly chosen as the Face of Irish Food – loves a lot of what happens in the United States on March 17th.

“I mean, look at what they do in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day. They toss all of this vegetable-based dye into the Chicago River and then paint it green for a day. That’s terrific,” Kevin said.

But then when it comes to what many Americans eat & drink on St. Paddy’s Day (i.e., a big plate of corned beef and cabbage. Which is then washed down with a mug of green beer) … Well, that’s where Dundon has to draw the line.

Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon displays a traditional Irish loin of bacon with Colcannon potatoes and a Dunbrody Kiss chocolate dessert. Photo by Tom Burton. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Green beer? No real Irishman would be caught dead drinking that stuff,” Kevin insists. “And as for eating corned beef & cabbage … That’s not actually authentic Irish fare either. Bacon and cabbage? Sure. But corned beef & cabbage was something that the Irish only began eating after they’d come to the States to escape the Famine. And even then these Irish-Americans only began serving corned beef & cabbage to their friends & family because they had to make do with the ingredients that were available to them at that time.”

And thus begins the strange tale of how corned beef & cabbage came to be associated with the North American celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. Because – according to Dundon – beef just wasn’t all that big a part of the Irish diet back in the 19th century.

To explain: Back in the Old Country, cattle – while they were obviously highly prized for the milk & cheese that they produced – were also beasts of burden. Meaning that they were often used for ploughing the fields or for hauling heavy loads. Which is why – back then — these animals were rarely slaughtered when they were still young & healthy. If anything, land owners liked to put a herd of cattle on display out in one of their pastures because that was then a sign to their neighbors that this farm was prosperous.

“Whereas pork … Well, everybody raised pigs back then. Which is why pork was a staple of the Irish diet rather than beef,” Dundon continued.

So if that’s what people actually ate back in the Old Country, how then did corned beef & cabbage come to be so strongly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day in the States.? That largely had to do with where the Irish wound up living after they arrived in the New World.

“When the Irish first arrived in America following the Great Famine, a lot of them wound up living in the inner city right alongside the Germans & the Jews, who were also recent immigrants to the States. And while that farm-fresh pork that the Irish loved wasn’t readily available, there was brisket. Which the Irish could then cure by first covering this piece of meat with corn kernel-sized pieces of rock salt – that’s how it came to be called corned beef. Because of the sizes of the pieces of rock salt that were used in the curing process – and then placing all that in a pot of water with other spices to soak for a few days.”

And as for the cabbage portion of corned beef & cabbage … Well, according to Kevin, in addition to buying their meat from the kosher delis in their neighborhood, the Irish would also frequent the stores that the German community shopped in. Where – thanks to their love of sauerkraut (i.e., pickled cabbage) – there was always a ready supply of cabbage to be had.

“So when you get right down to it, it was the American melting pot that led to corned beef & cabbage being found in the Irish-American cooking pot,” Dundon continued. “Since they couldn’t find or didn’t have easy access to the exact same ingredients that they had back in Ireland, Irish-Americans made do with what they could find in the immediate vicinity. And what they made was admittedly tasty. But it’s not actually authentic Irish fare.”

Mind you, what Kevin serves at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs (which – FYI – Orlando Magazine voted as the area’s best restaurant back in 2014) is nothing if not authentic. Dundon and his team at this acclaimed gastropub pride themselves on making traditional Irish fare and then contemporized it.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Take – for example – what we serve here instead of corned beef & cabbage. Again, because it was pork – rather than beef – that was the true staple of the Irish diet back then, what we offer instead is a loin of bacon that has been glazed with Irish Mist. That then comes with colcannon potatoes. Which is this traditional Irish dish that’s made up of mashed potato that have had some cabbage & bacon mixed through it,” Kevin enthused. “This heavenly ham – that’s what we actually call this traditional Irish dish at Raglan Road, Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – also includes some savory cabbage with a parsley cream sauce as well as a raisin cider jus. It’s simple food. But because of the basic ingredients – and that’s the real secret of Irish cuisine. That our ingredients are so strong – the flavors just pop off the plate.”

Which brings us to the real challenge that Dundon and the Raglan Road team face every day. Making sure that they actually have all of the ingredients necessary to make this traditional-yet-contemporized Irish fare to those folks who frequent this Walt Disney World favorite.

“Take – for example – the fish we serve here. We only used cold water fish. Salmon, mussels and haddock that have been hauled out of the Atlantic, the ocean that America and Ireland share,” Kevin stated. “Not that there’s anything wrong with warm water fish. It’s just that … Well, it doesn’t have the same structure. It’s a softer fish, which doesn’t really fit the parameters of Irish cuisine. And if you’re going to serve authentic food, you have to be this dedicated when it comes to sourcing your ingredients.

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

And if you’re thinking of perhaps trying to serve an authentic Irish meal this year, rather than once again serving corned beef & cabbage at your Saint Patrick’s Day Feast … Well, back in September of last year, Mitchell Beazley published “The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub.” This 296-page hardcover not only includes the recipe for Kevin’s Heavenly Ham but also it tells the tale of how this now-world-renown restaurant wound up being built in Orlando.

On the other hand, if you happen to have to the luck of the Irish and are actually down at The Walt Disney World Resort right now, it’s worth noting that Raglan Road is right in the middle of its Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This four day-long event – which includes Irish bands and professional dancers – stretches through Sunday night. And in addition to all that authentic Irish fare that Dundon and his team are cooking up, you also sample the fine selection of beers & cocktails that this establishment’s four distinct antique bars (each of which are more than 130 years old and were imported directly from Ireland) will be serving. Just – As ucht Dé (That’s “For God’s Sake” in Gaelic) – don’t make the mistake of asking the bartender there for a mug of green beer.

“Why would anyone willingly drink something like that?,” Dundon laughed. “I mean, just imagine what their washroom will look like the morning after.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, March 17, 2017

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